It is unfortunate that we need to even consider this bill, but most people are aware that a number of highly publicised incidents have occurred over the last 12 months or so, some of which have already been touched on. We were taken through a number of cases in the media — by the Herald Sun, the Age and the Australian — in regard to a number of incidents that occurred during the Australian tennis open, at a backpackers hostel and on public transport. These situations involved cameras being hidden in shoes, shower alcoves, walls, bags and a variety of other places.
The bill enables perpetrators to be charged with three specific new offences — that is, the taking of unauthorised photographs, the filming of a person’s intimate body parts when they are in public, and the distribution of the captured image, whether it be through email or camera. Each act of observation, capture and distribution will be an offence.
It has also been brought to our attention that these new technologies — the advancement of technology in general and the making of smaller devices, such as camera and communication devices, to transmit images and live streaming — need to be taken into account when we draw up legislation. This is essentially an update on the technologies and how people are now using them in ways that I believe were not imagined in the first place. Perpetrators have taken advantage of these developments, often in hidden and very sneaky ways.
I want to talk about the behaviour as well.
The bill aims to target pervasive and insidious behaviour perpetrated by offenders on members of the wider community. This behaviour is not always directed at women, but it is mostly women who are affected by this behaviour.
As I said, I think it is unfortunate and, I would argue, dreadfully sad that we need to consider such a bill. Unfortunately bad behaviour seems to reinvent itself time and again. We all need to keep pace with the latest developments so that we can protect the most vulnerable, and of course in this case also the unsuspecting.
Who would have thought 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago, that intimate body parts of unsuspecting people could be captured on film and that image could be relayed to people the person being photographed did not know at all? Even now when there is some community discussion around this topic, particularly when news of those incidents hits the press, it is clear there needs to be a lot more education in the community about this sort of behaviour. I think everyone — of course not the perpetrators — would agree that it is unacceptable behaviour, and this bill outlines the criminal offences. But I think we need to look at it a bit more clearly and give it a little bit more deep thought.
I would argue that the behaviour that is now being practised by these perpetrators clearly violates women. It is a behaviour that I would argue clearly denigrates women.
It is clearly a massive incursion into a woman’s privacy. It also does and will make women think twice about going out in public, particularly those women that are not as confident as others, and indeed older women as well; and it recreates a general level of suspicion in the community that just does not have a place in a sophisticated democratic society. A lot of people do not know how this offence is carried out and I think we do need to inform ourselves as well as others so that in the end we can protect ourselves from this behaviour.
I recall the horror and disgust that I had when I learnt of incidences over the past 12 months, but it actually was not until I was looking at this bill that I understood I had actually witnessed this behaviour overseas on an underground railway system some two years ago. It happened to be in Manhattan. At the time I sensed that something was going on. It involved a group of young males on the train carriage and it was a very uncomfortable feeling. I knew something was going on, but I certainly was not in on the joke.
Now that I know about the technology, I know about how it is used and I know what they were doing to the other women on that carriage that day.
I would argue that this behaviour is all about power. It is all about the abuse of power and about rendering other people powerless. It cannot be dismissed, I would argue, as some smutty behaviour that you might recall characterised or stereotyped in the 1950s or 1960s. It is not a form of entertainment for other people, and I do not think it can be in any way dressed up as a joke that can be passed on to other people. We can only guess what the consequences are for the victims. Clearly they are someone’s mother, they are someone’s sister, they are someone’s aunt, they are someone’s daughter — not just someone else’s mother, sister, aunt or daughter, but ours in our community. Until we make this connection in our community I think we will continue to have these types of problems in our society.
This bill is about sending a clear message in the community that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated. Systematic sexism will continue to develop and misogyny will go unchecked if we do not intervene in this sort of behaviour. We all want clear behavioural boundaries, a safe environment and a society based on mutual respect. This bill is designed to intervene and to give effect to working towards this. Perpetrators can now be charged with the three new offences I outlined before. For the unauthorised observation of intimate body parts the maximum penalty will be three months jail, for the unauthorised visual capturing of a person’s intimate body parts the maximum penalty will be two years jail and for the unauthorised distribution of visual images of a person’s intimate body parts there will be a maximum penalty of two years jail.
I also recognise that the bill complements other pieces of legislation that have been introduced to protect women, and I take this opportunity to congratulate the Attorney-General and his staff on their work in bringing this bill before the chamber. I commend the bill to the house.